Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a minimally-invasive approach to thoracic surgery. Instead of one large incision, surgeons make multiple small incisions and use cameras to see inside the chest. This allows the surgeon to operate inside the chest without needing to divide the large muscles of the chest wall and avoids using a rib-spreader. This decreases pain after surgery, and allows for a more rapid recovery.
While not every patient can undergo VATS, this technique is commonly employed for surgery of the lung, esophagus, and chest wall.